Family dinners can be an important part of a child’s upbringing and new research shows they may be even more crucial in a child’s development than we previously thought.
Researchers have often looked at how many times a family eats together during the week to determine how it affects adolescents later on as they grow up, but this study examined the importance of the meal environment as well to determine future outcomes and the results suggest there is a strong positive link between those meals you work so hard to put on the table and a child’s adolescent health.
Researchers studied more than 1,000 participants in Quebec, Canada. Starting at age 6, parents involved in the study reported on their typical family meal experience, the quality, the environment – so researchers would have the full picture. They followed up with those same children at age 10, checking in with them and their teachers about their academic progress, lifestyle habits, and social behavior.
They discovered there is a strong relationship between a child’s early family dinner experience and their lifestyle habits as they got older. Quality time with the family during dinner time translated into better general fitness. They also found those children did not drink as many soft drinks which have been linked to childhood obesity in the past, other results included lower levels of physical aggression and lower levels of oppositional behavior.
The next time you’re getting ready for dinner, keep in mind that despite all the stresses of getting everything on the table and getting everyone to sit down together, those meals no matter how simple or elaborate they may be can have some long-term positive influences on your child’s well-being. With busy work schedules and social engagements in between it’s becoming harder for a lot of families to make the time to sit down and have a meal together, but maybe these findings will encourage some families to prioritize meal time. And remember if you’re ever stuck for dinner ideas, the internet can be your best friend! The options are endless thanks to Pinterest or just Google dinner ideas.